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Nets rally from 14-point deficit to earn first win, beating Sixers, 114-109

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Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

It was an early win, but a statement nonetheless.

Brooklyn capitalized late, outscoring the 76ers 16-1 as they defeated Philadelphia, 114-109, in its home opener, earning their first win of the season. The win also snapped a five-game losing skid at Wells Fargo Center. It wasn’t smooth sailing for the Nets. It was a game-long rally, a night of experimentation.

“We knew as an organization and a team that they’re going through whatever they’re going through so we knew there was going to be a lot of emotion in here. For us, we just wanted to win. We wanted to come in here and do whatever it took to win,” James Harden said. “We didn’t play well during our first game, so we wanted to bounce back and put it together.”

Brooklyn certainly had to climb in order to win Friday night. The Nets played from behind throughout the contest then made it interesting, even shocking, late. The Nets climbed back from a 14-point deficit, cutting it to four points with 3:18 remaining. While the Sixers went cold and didn’t record a basket from the 5:43 mark till Seth Curry hit one of his two free throws with 15.2 records remaining, Patty Mills converted on a speedy transition layup to put Brooklyn within two with 2:01 remaining.

Following a key defensive stop down low on Joel Embiid down low, James Harden drove the lane and dropped it off to LaMarcus Aldridge for the and-one to put the Nets up 109-108.

The Nets veteran big drilled two big free throws on the following possession to put Brooklyn up 111-108 with 16.7 seconds remaining. The Nets hit their free throws late to ice the contest.

“It’s not going to be pretty. At least for a little while. We just got to continue to fight, play for each other and figure out ways to compete and stay in games while we figure out rotations, combinations and what we’re all about. That was there,” Nash said on the win.

“Really just proud of the guys for their competition level, but they stuck with it with guys in and out of the lineup. Lots of different combinations and they didn’t get any paralysis because of all the newness and changes. I think we got a little bit of a confidence boost tonight,” Nash added.

Kevin Durant recorded his second triple-double as a Net with 29 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in 37 minutes. Durant’s 13th regular-season triple-double included a 9-of-20 from the field and 1-of-6 from deep shooting performance.

“I think every game is different. You don’t know how contending teams like Philly will play defensively. They’re so versatile defensively, so going into the game, I just got to be prepared for anything,” said Durant on his triple-double performance. “It might not be my night scoring. It might not be my night assisting, so I just got to be ready to do anything offensively.”

LaMarcus Aldridge and Harden both also had 20 point efforts. LMA finished with 23 points and five rebounds and Harden recorded 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Mills once again showed that he “fits”, scoring 11 points, two rebounds and two assists and going 3-of-3 from deep.

The Nets deployed the same big lineup — Harden, Durant, Blake Griffin and Nic Claxton — to open the contest and quickly got burned along the perimeter. Brooklyn complained about no-calls and Philadelphia took advantage, hitting three of their first four threes in transition to quickly mount a 15-6 advantage with 8:36 remaining.

Out of the timeout, Brooklyn experimented with the lineup of Harden, Mills, Harris, Durant and Aldridge and the tables turned and Brooklyn trimmed away at the 14-point deficit. The lineup opened clean looks for the Nets with Aldridge benefiting the most through the mid-range pick-and-pop with Harden — eight points in five minutes — to decrease the deficit to 34-28 after one.

“In this day in age, the mid-range is considered a bad shot. I got 19k points off the mid-range, so you tell me it’s a bad shot, I don’t believe you,” Aldridge joked about his mid-range game.

Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks

Brooklyn improved their transition defense early in the second quarter. Nash experimented with Claxton and Johnson together on the court, along with Millsap, but the Nets couldn’t get consistent stops and the shades of the Bucks loss reappeared.

The Nets couldn’t register a field goal for over four minutes of play until Mills broke the cold streak with his ninth-straight three of the season. Brooklyn trimmed the deficit to five, but Philadelphia finished the half strong, a scenario that was reminiscent of the Nets Opening Night loss to Milwaukee.

The Sixers ended the second frame nursing a 10-point lead (62-55) but Durant had the final bucket of the quarter with a hang-dribble 27-foot three to put him at 17 points. Despite only trailing by seven at the break, Brooklyn couldn’t find answers to Tobias Harris and Seth Curry, who combined for 35 points at the half.

Nash and the Nets started Claxton for the second half — along with Harden, Harris, Durant and Griffin. With 9:21 remaining in the third, Harden made history. The Nets guard moved into fourth place all-time in 3-pointers made, passing Nets development assistant, Kyle Korver made list.

Harden continued to man the offense and trim the deficit to single digits, but the Sixers remained composed and pulled the advantage back to double digits on the back of Embiid — who started the third but went to the locker room during the final minute of the second.

The energy for Brooklyn began to pick up in the final four minutes of the third but there was still a lot of back-and-forth till the end. The lineup of Mills, Harden, Durant, Millsap and Aldridge opened the spacing for the Nets in the half-court. That allowed a collective effort — anchored by Durant — to cut the deficit to as low as two points. Still, Brooklyn couldn’t get over the two-possession hump with Philadelphia hitting the final 12 minutes nursing a flimsy 91-85 lead.

Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Brooklyn presented a different look to the Sixers early in the fourth with a smaller lineup, inserting Jevon Carter along with Mills, Harden, Harris and Griffin. The lineup weathered the storm well, but the deficit remained at six points with Durant coming back off the bench with 7:50 remaining. Then, the fun began.

“It was a great team win for us tonight. Everybody came in and stepped up for us tonight defensively. LaMarcus [Aldridge] was incredible for us tonight. So happy that he got his legs up under him and getting more comfortable. We got to keep building on this to see where we can go,” said Durant on the win.

For the 76ers, Embiid finished with 19 points, eight boards and four assist to go along with four blocks and two steals. Curry and Tobias Harris led Philly with 23 points. Curry, who’s now the No. 2 overall 3-point shooter in NBA history, went 4-for-4 from deep.

Woj: Nets in listening mode on Kyrie Irving

In a pre-game discussion of the two teams prodigal point guards, Adrian Wojnarowski said that the Nets have taken trade calls for Kyrie Irving but have not “made” any trade calls of their own.

“Brooklyn, I’m told, has taken incoming calls from teams on Kyrie Irving, but they have not themselves made any calls about Irving,” said Woj.

Daryl Morey, the 76ers GM, has scoped the league for Ben Simmons trades but has not reached out to Brooklyn for a Simmons-Irving swap, he added. Morey is very much pro-vaccination.

Milestone Watch

  • With his 23 points, LaMarcus Aldridge is now 25 points shy of the 20,000-point plateau. He will join only 48 players in NBA history who have reached that goal.

“Last year I was told I’m like 49 points from 20,000 so I don’t know where I’m at now,” he said after his dominant performance against Joel Embiid and the Sixers. “You don’t want to count those things (because then) you’ll have a long night. I’m gonna go play, and when I hit it, I’ll hit it.”

  • With his three 3-pointers, Joe Harris is now 10 away from jumping ahead of Jason Kidd to become the Nets all-time leader.
  • And as noted, James Harden is now behind only Ray Allen, Steph Curry and Reggie Miller in 3-pointers made all-time, having surpassed player development assistant Kyle Korver. He is also only 48 short of the 2,500 mark.

March for Kyrie Irving

The same anti-vaccination protestors who held a rally in Times Square last weekend will protest in support of Kyrie Irving at the Nets home opener Sunday in Brooklyn.

The march will begin at Commodore Battery Park near the Brooklyn Navy Yard and move to the Barclays Center prior to the opening game for the Brooklyn Nets, per FOX News,

One of the organizers, John Matland, told Fox News he anticipates several thousand attendees. FOX quoted Matland as describing his movement as a “widely diverse group” united under the goal of stopping what they regard as an infringement on their personal liberties.

Nearly 1,000 people converged on Times Square last Saturday for a “Broadway Rally for Freedom” to protest the city’s vaccine mandate.

G League Draft moves

The annual G League Draft is Saturday. It’s a conference call and goes three rounds, but as of Friday night, the Long Island Nets have traded away their first and second rounders. On Friday, Long Island announced that it had acquired the G League rights to Adam Woodbury from the Grand Rapids Gold in exchange for Long Island’s second round pick in the 2022 NBA G League Draft. The trade is not subject to a physical.

Earlier in the week, Long Island traded their first round pick this year in a five-team deal so they could acquire the G League rights to Devontae Cacok the Nets wanted to keep in the organization after he had lost out on two-way deal to David Duke Jr. That plan was thwarted when the Spurs claimed Cacok off waivers and assigned him to a two-way deal with the Austin Spurs.

In 41 games (six starts) during the 2019-20 season with Grand Rapids, Woodbury, a seven-footer out of Iowa, posted averages of 10.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per contest.

Long Island retains its second and third round picks — at Nos. 40 and 60 — and it’s always possible they will add piece during the Draft.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

The Nets will return home to Barclays Center for the home opener on Sunday to host the Hornets and LaMelo Ball. The game is scheduled to tip at 4:00 PM ET.

“We got a young Charlotte team coming in. A young athletic team coming in to play so hopefully we bring that same type of intensity,” said Durant looking ahead to the Hornets.

For a different perspective, check out Liberty Ballers — our sister site covering the Sixers.